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3 Wisconsin counties, tribe partner to fight drug epidemic

July 29, 2018

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (AP) — The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is partnering with three northern Wisconsin counties to fight the regional drug epidemic.

The tribe will work with leaders of Iron, Oneida and Vilas counties to try to find solutions to the problem of heroin, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs plaguing the region, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

The committee also wants to hire an assistant district attorney to work as a special drug prosecutor, focusing on hard drugs. The prosecutor would report to the counties and the tribe.

“We decided early on that we wanted to be a committee of action, not just talking about it,” Hartman said. “We can make an impact right now on the problem, not something that’s going to come five or 10 years from now.”

George Thompson is one of two Lac Du Flambeau representatives on the Tri-County/Tribal Controlled Substance Response Committee. He said the volume of cases involving drugs is overwhelming the region’s courts.

The use of drugs is also fueling an increase in other crimes, said Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman, a member of the committee.

“The tribe especially has been hit hard. Our county has been hit hard,” Hartman said. “When you’re dealing with heroin and methamphetamine and heavy pill use and those types of things, you get all the other crimes and behaviors associated with that.”

The collaboration between the four governments has attracted the interest of Wisconsin and federal officials. Thompson says that representatives from the state Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service joined the county and tribal leaders a recent committee meeting.

“We invited everyone we possibly could to the table,” Thompson said.

The proportion of drug deaths involving heroin statewide increased from 5 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2014. The number of criminal cases involving methamphetamine possession and distribution also increased 167 percent between 2011 and 2015.

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Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org

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